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SOURCE Pali Adventures
LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif., May 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The debate over single-sex versus co-ed schools is ongoing, and has its parallel in the world of kids' summer camps. As a parent you might wonder - is an all-girl camp best for my daughter? Will it provide her with a powerful summer camp experience that includes tons of fun, amazing girl-bonding time, a self-esteem boost, and memories to last a lifetime in a safe and secure environment? Or would she be better served in a co-ed situation that more closely mirrors real life? We consulted with both a psychologist and a camping expert, and discovered that research supports both environments.
A 2005 study done by the National Coalition of Girls' Schools has shown that girls-only settings facilitate a greater "can-do" attitude, have a greater impact on girls' social self-confidence, are more effective for personal development, and provide more leadership opportunities. Beverly Hills psychologist Dr. Marjan Madison states that, "Girls feel more empowered and confident, tapping into a sense of self that has nothing to do with the mirroring or validation they receive from boys."
Yet Dr. Madison also contends that all-girl camps provide an unrealistic "bubble" of protection that puts these girls at a disadvantage when learning how to relate to the real world and the opposite sex: "Real growth and maturity occurs when girls escape the bubble and interact in co-ed situations."
Balance is the key, according to Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camping Association: "Girls have to learn essential social skills, but we need to balance that with time spent in a safe environment. Young women are pressured to look good, perform well, succeed and meet societal demands. These things have merit, but need to be balanced with an environment where it is safe to be yourself, have fun, laugh, develop positive relationships, lasting friendships, and be totally unburdened from gender relationships. All-girl environments are very empowering, and provide limitless opportunities for girls to learn about who they are."
Historically, all-girl schools have achieved this balance by integrating with a nearby boy's school for social activities. So are there any summer camps out there that balance the growth of a co-ed camp with the safety and security of an all-girl camp?
Andy Wexler, currently Executive Director of Pali Adventures summer camp, was looking for such a camp for his then 8-year-old daughter. "Rachel is much more confident, extroverted and engaged in all-girl situations, which is fantastic, but I want her learn to transfer those positive attributes to a co-ed environment." He began to search for a summer camp that offered a combination of the best of both worlds, but it didn't seem to exist. He couldn't find that camp, so instead he created it within his own summer camp, with her in mind.
That program is called Girl Power Extreme, and is now in its 5th year as one of 18 themed programs at Pali Adventures, striving to provide that key element of balance. Mornings are spent in a girls-only environment, participating in extremely physical activities that boys would usually dominate, such as ropes course, paintball, driving ATV's, riflery and zip lines. Girls get a chance to try these activities without worrying about what boys might think of them. They then balance those extreme activities with supportive girl-time, bonding, manicures and pedicures, and learning about powerful women in history.
In the afternoons, following the example set by all-girl schools, the girls are integrated with the rest of camp for electives, meals, and evening activities such as themed dances and game shows. This provides that crucial social interaction needed for developing social skills, maturity, and true growth. In addition, even the co-ed aspects of camp are designed with an emphasis on a supportive and affirming environment.
From a psychologist's point of view, Girl Power may be the ideal summer camp experience - Dr. Madison states that "Having at least half a day constructed to champion girls' sense of self without any pressure or fear of rejection from boys allows girls to find their inner sense of self and express that. The beauty of it is that in the afternoon they escape the bubble – and real growth and maturity can happen while they hold onto that sense of self. They harness and put into practice what they have gained in the morning – holding onto that sense of empowerment as they integrate into the co-ed situations."
Peg Smith is also in agreement, "Girls can take that feeling of empowered womanhood and then relate to the world in a powerful way. Girl Power provides that necessary balance in an extremely unique program." The camp staff continues to report success with this program and positive changes in Girl Power campers. The huge leaps in self-confidence observed by the staff continue to support the case for balancing co-ed and all-girl environments, in summer camp as well as in the wider world.
Ian Brassett is a camp expert with over 25 years of experience in summer camps. He is a visitor for the American Camp Association and has been a guest speaker at the ACA Spring Leadership Conference.
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